She made it!
With only a couple hours of sleep and her muscles aching, Eva Casale summoned up the strength to sprint through the finish line Sunday as she completed her three-day, 150-mile run from Manhattan to Montauk.
"This is the hardest thing I ever did," Casale said, "but I told myself never to give up because the children would never want me to give up on them."
The 50-year-old ultramarathoner from Syosset was running on behalf of 150 children, mostly from Long Island, who have battled cancer -- including some who lost their lives. She has been raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a charity that funds cancer research, via her site goteameva.org in hopes of reaching her goal of $150,000.
"It was very difficult at times, but I remembered who I was running for and their pain and suffering," she said. "What I felt is not even one-tenth of what these children go through."
It took Casale roughly 55 hours to complete the course. She started in lower Manhattan outside the not-for-profit's offices around 8 a.m. Friday and then breezed over the Brooklyn Bridge with a small entourage of fellow runners.
Casale was never alone. She was joined by runners at different parts of the course who pledged money to her cause. Sometimes her entourage was just one or two people, while at other times the number swelled to more than 20.
With their support, she tackled Brooklyn and Queens in less than five hours Friday, crossing into Nassau County shortly before 1 p.m.
When she arrived in Bay Shore later that night, a throng of supporters met her at Bay Shore High School track for a glow-stick run honoring Rich Arcuri, a long-time resident and runner who died last year in a work-related accident.
Arcuri was also a supporter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and as a tribute to him the Bay Shore School District presented Casale with a $1,373 donation.
Then, while most Long Islanders were probably sleeping in their beds, Casale kept pounding the pavement Friday night through Saturday, with only a few short rest breaks.
She did sleep Saturday night, but only for two hours, and she was back on the course before sunrise Sunday.
By 9:30 a.m., she was in East Hampton and had about 15 miles left to go. When she arrived at The Lobster Roll, a popular roadside eatery in Amagansett, she picked up a crowd of runners and cyclists who escorted her for the last 6 miles, but the final stretch was not easy.
They had to conquer several hills on Old Montauk Highway before they arrived at the finish in downtown Montauk shortly after 3 p.m.
There, Casale was met by Gina Gallardo, an 8-year-old cancer survivor from Syosset who presented her with a medal and big hug.
"She's amazing," Gina said.
Casale said she hopes her journey brought awareness and funds to the cause, so the charity can continue to make strides toward finding a cure, "so there will be no children with cancer."
She dedicated the final mile of the run to Julia Wilson, a 10-year-old Rocky Point girl who died of cancer last August.
"I needed to get to Julia," Casale said.
Click on the map above to see photos from Casale's journey.